On a winter day, at a mountain’s feet,
from a dream more ancient than language,
three men went out to stand against
the darkness within the darkness:

the Oak Man with a bamboo staff,
the Reed Man with a staff of oak,
the Water Man with an ancient sword
so fearsome he dared not use it.

The three men found an empty house
and waited for the Darkness,
and when the winter wind blew in
and lanterns, stars, and moon went black,

the Oak Man struck with his bamboo staff,
the Water Man flung jade,
the Reed Man, waiting, listened and learned
the Terrible Name of the Darkness.

The Water Man spoke this name, and made
a light within the darnkess,
the Oak Man and the Darkness traded blows,
the Reed Man stood and waited for his time,

and when the Darkness had the Oak Man pinned,
the Reed Man struck a mighty blow
that shattered his wooden staff.
The Water Man still fought with light alone.

And as the Darkness turned
to strike the Reed Man down,
the Oak Man raised his bamboo staff
and struck the killing blow.

And so it was three heroes slew
the Demon of Hidden Things:
the Oak Man using strength and skill,
the Water Man with light and jade,
the Reed Man using patience and perfect timing.

David Sklar writes in the spaces between the impossible magic of legend, the inscrutable magic of dreams, and the breathtaking everyday magic of the world in which we live. His publications include poetry in Bull Spec and Paterson Literary Review, short fiction in Strange Horizons and Triangulation: End of the Rainbow, and the novel Shadow of the Antlered Bird from Drollerie Press. He is currently coediting the two-headed anthology Trafficking in Magic/Magicking in Traffic for Drollerie Press. He works as a freelance writer and editor, and lives in New Jersey with his wife and two barbarians, aged 2 and 5.

You can read more about David at his website:



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